Many wasting national assets could be put to productive use

By initiating a discussion on some of the prime assets that can be converted into productive activities, we believe that the Lagos State Government may have started a process or model that other states where federal assets are situated and lying waste can adopt. There is really no economic sense in allowing valuable national assets most of which are in prime locations to remain in their present state of neglect. At a period we need to think out of the box to address the myriad of socio-economic challenges, there should be no room for waste.

One of the assets being eyed by the Lagos State government is the National Stadium in Surulere. Built in 1972 to host the All African Games that was held a year later, it can give expression for the abundant energy of the nation’s youth to excel in most fields of sports. For three decades, the facility—with an initial 55,000 capacity main bowl–fulfilled that purpose, hosting several national and international sports competitions even as it also served as a training ground for the sports men and women. Unfortunately, things began to fall apart in 2004 when the stadium started to suffer neglect, perhaps due to the construction of a new national stadium in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory.

Today, all its facilities are thoroughly dilapidated. The edifice that was once a national monument has deteriorated into an eyesore to the embarrassment of a nation that is increasingly becoming incapable of maintaining its national assets. In the past one decade, the facilities have degenerated from providing skeletal sports function to a religious events centre and now, a den of social misfits called area boys, who use it as a launch-pad for attacking innocent citizens living in the vicinity.

Quite tragically, the same fate has befallen all the other national stadia, including Ibadan, Enugu, Bauchi, Kaduna and Abuja. All of them have become huge economic waste. The situation of Abuja stadium is worse. Built in 2003 at the cost of $360 million (more than N100 billion today), the 60,491 capacity edifice is one of the most expensive of such projects in the world. Renovated severally with billions of naira between 2009, when it hosted the Junior World Cup, and 2012, when it went into disuse, the stadium is now an unofficial grazing reserve for cattle.

Officials have blamed poor funding for this unfortunate state of affairs. Available records show that the six stadia got N300 million in the 2012 budget for maintenance, increasing slightly to N400 million in 2016. With this meagre fund, it is evident that the facilities could only be what they are. But there is lifeline from the Lagos State government, at least for the National Stadium in Surulere.

Worried by the social implications of the existence of such a huge facility abandoned in the heart of his state, Governor, Mr Akinwunmi Ambode requested the federal government to hand over the National Stadium, Surulere to the state, promising to transform it back to a world class standard. While the Minister of Sports, Mr. Solomon Dalung, promised to give the request a favourable consideration, no concrete response has been received from the federal authorities.

We urge the federal government to take quick steps on many of these entities that are wasting away either by giving them out to private investors in line with its concession policy or handing them over to states that are interested in running them. On the particular case of the National Stadium, the federal government should proceed by granting the request of the Lagos State government since they have need for the facility and the resources to run it.

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